Orkney support for assisted dying revealed as McArthur publishes bill

28 Mar 2024
Liam McArthur MSP at the Scottish Parliament

A new poll has revealed that Orkney has the joint-highest level of support for assisted dying among all Scottish Parliament constituencies, as the islands’ MSP Liam McArthur formally introduces his members’ bill at Holyrood.

The Assisted Dying for Terminally Ill Adults (Scotland) Bill would enable mentally competent adults with an advanced, progressive terminal illness to be provided with assistance to end their life at their request. Mr McArthur lodged his initial proposal on 22nd September 2021. Following the largest response to any consultation on a members’ bill the Scottish Parliament’s history, and 18 months of careful drafting, the bill will be officially published by the Scottish Parliament on 28th March.

To coincide with the launch, campaign group Dignity in Dying is releasing the results of comprehensive polling conducted by Opinium that reveals the level of support for legalising assisted dying in Orkney is 82% – the joint-highest in the country, alongside Shetland. In every constituency and region across Scotland there was found to be at least a two-thirds majority in support, with the average overall standing at 78% of respondents. This figure matches the level of support expressed in responses to Mr McArthur’s earlier consultation on his proposals.

Commenting, Mr McArthur said:

“It has been clear for many years that an overwhelming majority of the public support a change in the law to allow more choice for dying people at the end of life. This latest polling certainly underscores that, while also confirming that this support is to be found right across the country.

“I may be biased, but I am particularly pleased to see Orkney and Shetland at the top of the list when it comes to levels of support for assisted dying. Being brought up in Orkney has always shaped my outlook and perspective on issues, so it’s perhaps no great surprise that people in Orkney back what is generally considered to be the next great liberal reform.

“It is increasingly clear that the current ban on assisted dying is failing too many dying Scots at the end of life, despite the very best efforts of palliative care. Too often, it leaves patients facing difficult and traumatic deaths that impact not just them, but those they leave behind. We can and must do better.

“In keeping with similar laws we see operating successfully in the US, Australia and New Zealand, my proposals would be robustly safeguarded to ensure the process works as intended. I hope that as they consider the provisions of my bill, MSP colleagues will look at the compelling evidence supporting a change in the law, as well as the strong support amongst their constituents, and ensure we pass legislation that better meets the needs of dying people here in Scotland.

“Once we’ve passed this bill, we’ll wonder why on earth it took us so long to do so.”